Brave New World

Like the old joke about the weather, in the business world everybody talks about the New Economy, but nobody does anything about it. What's so new about this New Economy, and what do you need to know? We're glad you asked.


Hennings gives some examples of this liberation. What are mundane tasks for sellers? Looking up products in the catalog. And if it's not in this building I have to go over to the other building and get it because my best customer just called me and is now asking for something that isn't a product line I normally deal with. But they buy $5 million a year from me, and I'm going to go to the other building and find the catalog and do it. So there's lots of effort, but nothing really productive. Put in business terms, you're not getting a good return on investment (ROI) on your intellectual investment. Brainpower that could be developing improved business processes is instead devoted to slogging through files.


Hunt is excited by what he calls the speed and the connectivity, the interconnectedness of people. And this interconnectedness has promise beyond e-mailing Grandma pictures of the twins. Engineers can already thrash out a new plant design over long distances, and will perform more of this type of work in the future. As Hunt explains, this is particularly important as you go into the realm of industries like the automotive industry, and start sharing engineering drawings and some of those really elaborate documents. 


Bailey multitasks his feelings. The same thing that excites him also concerns him. Here's how he explains it: The exciting thing is the access to information. And it is literally unlimited. You can go out on the Internet and get information on just about anything. And that is powerful. That is liberating. The downside, according to Bailey? The scary thing is also information overload. It's the idea that there's so much information you just get overloaded with the vast amount of it.


But the information cavalry is on the way, says Bailey. I think that the idea of being able to articulate what you're looking for, either in the form of a profile I'm interested in any information about these five topics at any time and being able to go out and match yourself exactly to what you're looking for, is exciting. He calls this service an information broker. I see that as inevitable; the idea of your own personalized agent who will go out and get the information you need.


While there are already limited capabilities in this area Bailey expects this capability to become more and more powerful. I think what we'll see is more and more matching, personalization. And as we get the information more and more structured, it's going to make that easier.


The New Economy Unites


Mark Goldstein likes the chance the New Economy provides to combine Old World retailer Kmart with an online presence such as Bluelight.com. Discovering ways to leverage both our strengths to meet the consumer's needs is the kind of challenge anyone would dream of having. Programs, like in-store returns of online purchases and in-store online shopping kiosks, are just the tip of the iceberg on where we can take this New Economy and the New Economy customer.


Perfect.com's Surace considers the New Economy a function of the Internet. He says, [The Internet is] literally another communication medium. And, as such, it's a communication medium that allows a different level of interaction than, say, the telephone or fax. You can interact with hundreds or thousands of databases all at once, which you could never do on the phone.


Surace goes on to say that, for corporate America, The real excitement is the ability to use that communication medium to re-engineer a lot of their processes, drive costs out and drive dollars to the bottom line. As a communication medium, the Net allows businesses to streamline and automate processes that they could have never done before. Because it's a worldwide network, whether your suppliers are in India, Bangladesh, China or the United States, ultimately you can connect to them and negotiate with them electronically and buy or return or whatever you have to do with them.


PeopleSoft's Shecterle is excited about two facets of the New Economy. One, the ability of even smaller enterprises to reach new market opportunities, is fairly well-known. But his second point, the ability to take the supply chain outside the enterprise, is not an obvious advantage. As he explains, We spent a lot of time in the last 10 years talking about how to extend the supply chain and, through extranets and EDI, get closer to the other members of a supply chain. That's true, and the Internet and the New Economy are really going to make that even better and more effective. The Internet is also now allowing us to do that same kind of getting outside the enterprise, not just with suppliers but with customers and with employees. We're finally able to look at all the business processes within the enterprise and optimize all of those that it makes sense to extend outside the four walls.

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